For Part 7, click here: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 7: Imputed Righteousness?
Or start at the beginning: The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 1: God is a Trinity of Persons?
And now we come to the final faulty foundation of faith alone—for now!
According to faith alone theology, after Christ’s merit is “imputed” to sinners, when God looks at those sinners, instead of seeing their sin God sees Christ’s righteousness.
In other words according to faith alone theology, God doesn’t look at the human heart and character at all. Instead, God looks merely at the surface—at a veneer of righteousness that Christ supposedly covers us with even though our true heart and our actual character is still that of a sinner.
In effect, faith alone theology says that God’s vision so poor that when people accept some supposed faith that Christ died to pay the penalty for their sins, God doesn’t notice that those people are still evil, immoral, sinful, selfish, and greedy at heart.
8. The Father then accepts us as righteous even though we are still sinners?
Here on earth, in our human courts, it sometimes happens that a person who is guilty of a crime such as murder is not convicted of that crime, but is instead declared innocent. That person can then go free and continue with his or her usual life. And that person’s friends, family, and supporters may believe that justice has been done.
But does a murderer become innocent just because a judge and jury were not presented enough evidence for a conviction? Or because there was a miscarriage of justice and a guilty man was knowingly set free due to bribes and blackmail?
Even if some people might be fooled when a guilty person is declared innocent, God is not. God sees not only our actions, but our thoughts and the intentions of our heart as well:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5, italics added)
When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6–7)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely. (Psalm 139:1–4)
Can we really believe that God, who looks at our hearts, and knows every one of our thoughts before we even speak them, can believe that a person who has a wicked, selfish, greedy heart, and whose thoughts are all about how to gain money, power, and pleasure, is actually a righteous person because Christ’s righteousness has been “credited” to that person?
No, God is not fooled.
God sees who we truly are, and what our true character is, from the inside out. There is no way that God can look at us and see us as righteous and saved when in fact we are still miserable, selfish, greedy sinners.
There is only one way for God to see us and accept us as righteous.
That is for us to be righteous.
As long as we are still sinners, God will see us for exactly what we are: as sinners.
From sinners to righteous people
Of course, we can’t stop being evil and sinful through our own power.
Oh, maybe we can deal with some of our lesser vices. We might be able to quit smoking, or quit talking about women in sexist ways, or quit using our feminine wiles to finagle men into doing stuff for us. But chances are we’re stopping our wrong words and actions only because we realize that it’s getting us into trouble. If it weren’t for that, we’d go right on doing those things.
After all, we really don’t see anything wrong with just one cigarette, or just one dirty joke at the expense of a female co-worker, or just one wriggle of the hips to get a male co-worker to do our dirty work for us.
No, to really change from a sinner to a righteous person at heart, we must recognize that our thoughts, desires, words, and actions are wrong because they are against God’s commandments, and contrary to God’s path of loving our fellow human beings just as much as we love ourselves (see Matthew 22:36–40).
And when we start facing our deepest and most ingrained character flaws and destructive habit patterns, we will sooner or later realize that we are no match for them on our own. After trying and failing to fix them by our own will power, we will realize that we need God’s power working in us if we are ever to leave behind the ol’ ego, or leave behind those intractable self-destructive ways of thinking, and become a new person.
No, God doesn’t see us as righteous when we are still sinners because of some supposed “imputation” of Christ’s righteousness to us. That is the eighth and final (for now!) faulty foundation of faith alone. As with all of the others, the idea of “imputed righteousness” is not only contrary to the plain teachings of the Bible, but contrary to common sense.
Life just doesn’t work that way. And God certainly doesn’t work that way.
Besides, there are far more beautiful and sensible things that the Bible does teach us about how, through God’s love, wisdom, and power working in and through us, we can stop being a miserable excuse for a human being, and instead become a truly loving, truly thoughtful, truly kind, truly human being.
For further reading:
- God is Love . . . And That Makes All the Difference in the World
- The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus
- Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
- How do I Love God with my Whole Heart?
- Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth
- What does Jesus Mean when He Says we Must be Born Again?
Obliterate their beliefs haha 🙂 Good series, Lee! I have been reading a lot of your posts lately and I appreciate your systematic annihilation of an entire organized religion.
Haha! Thanks for giving Annette and me a good laugh! 😀 Glad you’re enjoying the articles!
The love your neighbor as much as you love yourself may have a serious get out of jail card loophole for some. I know of people who love themselves very little if at all. Does that mean they don’t have to love their neighbor nearly as much as those that are completely in love with themselves?
Frankly Frank 🙂
Hi Frankly Frank,
Umm . . . Maybe not lol.
But some people do have a lower capacity for love than others. We’re not judged by some absolute standard, but by the standard of our own conscience and our own capabilities. If we do our best, or at least reasonably well, with the cards we’re dealt hereditarily, socially, and so on, that’s all God asks of us.
For a related article, see: Can Gang Members Go to Heaven? (Is Life Fair?)
I’m terrified of the idea of hell…
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.
For many people, a healthy fear of hell can be a motivator to do what it takes not to go there. Unfortunately, for many others it becomes an abject terror that paralyzes rather than motivates. If that’s your situation, here are some articles that might be helpful to you:
If, after reading these, you’re still afraid, and you have some specific questions, please don’t hesitate to comment and ask. Bottom line: you will go to hell only if you choose hell over heaven.
But I can’t. I can’t live up to this. No matter how hard I try I will never be a good person. I will always be resentful, hateful, depressed, angry. If anything, I’m worse, because I don’t even have a future to look forward to. Why does it have to be this way?
Once again, I’m sorry you feel that way.
But that’s true only if you make up your mind that it’s true. If you decide that you “will always be resentful, hateful, depressed, angry,” then that’s exactly what will happen.
But if you decide that’s not true, then something different can happen.
I’m not saying it will be easy. Even after deciding to turn your heart, mind, and life in a better direction, it will take many struggles and many years to move away from the current low state of your soul toward something higher, better, and brighter. And you will certainly need to turn to counselors, ministers, friends, and family for help.
But it is possible.
That is, it is possible if you decide that it’s possible, and commit yourself to doing the long, hard work of making it happen.
What does it mean?
“At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible. So if they tell you, ‘There He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here He is in the inner rooms,’’ do not believe it. ”
“13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question.
Is there something particular that you think these passages mean? Or are you simply hoping to gain some understanding of them?
In other words: Why do you ask?
Thanks for the insightful articles. But I still cannot wrap my head around something. If according to you (and your interpretation of the Bible) we need to become face our intrinsic sins and flaws to BECOME righteous, how then will we ever reach the righteousness God requires? I understand we need to try our best to live out Christ, but we will never be able to achieve the absolute righteousness in our lifetime, so does that mean we cannot be saved?
Yes, I do believe people can change greatly after transformation by Christ’s power, but even the greatest of men still sin. God cannot accept that sin unless Jesus made the payment for it. But the condition is still Jesus’ sacrifice not our absolute righteousness (because it cannot be acheived) isn’t it?
Hope to hear your reply soon, thanks and God bless!
Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and questions.
In response, I would say that your objections here are based on two fallacies that are especially common in Protestant thought:
Taking the second first, that is simply never stated in the Bible. Look as hard as you wish, and you will not find a single verse anywhere in the Bible that says that Christ paid the penalty for our sin. That idea comes, not from the Bible, but from various Protestant theologians who lived 1,500 years after the Bible was written. In the Christian world, only Protestants believe that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and all other smaller branches of Christianity do not hold to this false belief.
In fact, the Bible specifically and clearly rejects the entire principle of penal substitution as believed within Protestantism: that of an innocent person (in this case, Christ) paying the penalty, or price, for the sins of a guilty person (in this case, all of us sinful human beings). For quotes from the Bible showing this, please see: “The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 5: Jesus Paid the Penalty For Our Sins?”
In short, the idea that God requires Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin is not only taught nowhere in the Bible, but the principle behind it is explicitly rejected as something that God detests.
Those Protestants who claim that Christ paid the penalty for our sins are just flat out wrong, and they are flatly contradicting the plain teachings of the Bible.
Likewise, nowhere in the Bible does it say that God requires perfection and perfect sinlessness from us, and that if we commit the slightest sin, God cannot accept us. Jesus does tell us to be perfect, but he never says that if we aren’t perfect, he will reject us and send us to hell. That statement is more of an ideal and aspiration that Jesus puts before us. It is not presented as a requirement for entry into heaven. Clearly Jesus’ own disciples were far from perfect. And yet, he accepted them and loved them and made them the first evangelists of his kingdom.
For more on the fallacy of thinking that God requires perfect sinlessness from us, please see: “The Faulty Foundations of Faith Alone – Part 4: God Condemns Us to Hell Because We’re Not Perfect?”
There is much more I could say here, but before it would make much sense to you, you’d need to disabuse yourself of these false and unbiblical doctrines about Christ paying the penalty for our sins and God requiring perfect sinlessness from us as a prerequisite for entry into his kingdom. If, after reading the linked articles, you wish to continue the conversation, and learn how God really does save us, please feel free to leave further comments.
Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!